Running a business is tricky for innumerable reasons – but one of the main ones is that it is nearly impossible to rely entirely on repeat and regular business.
I used to run the marketing department for a professional service company and when I started our company was not just red hot, but white hot in urban land development – particularly in the housing industry. The office grew and grew with staff to keep up with the tidal wave of work that just kept coming in. However there was writing on the wall. Economic reports saying that the housing boom was close to bust. Several in the company saw this and advised the heads of urban land to start trying to find new sources of work. The warning was not taken and the housing market did bust. The recession eventually led to laying off 74% of the office; most of which in that one department.
A few years ago I myself had three regular publishing clients hiring me to shoot all of their covers monthly. That is 36 projects per year I could expect between the three companies. However to assume that this would continue for any extended period of time would be a dangerous move.
Flash forward to today and one of those magazines is now hiring another photographer, another has a smaller budget and the third went from 12 issues a year down to 9. Thus when I used to do 36 guaranteed projects a year, I now have around 15-20 between the two remaining companies.
This is not an irregular occurrence. This is the norm. Clients will have changes in their budgets, they have changes in staff, may decide to go in a different direction and so on.
Thus as important as it is to focus on growing long-lasting relationships to earn repeat business, you cannot rely solely on that business.
You must keep your foresight and efforts to bring in new clients and new business. Yes it requires a careful balance; but it is what is necessary in the new industry landscape.